Deceit. There’s nothing like it. Released right in the blurred grey-area of one decade turning over into the next, much like Spiderland or Kid A, it took elements of the previous generation and transmuted them into something completely original. This Heat’s second and final album has a sort of “nothing is sacred” approach to their recording; noise rock, prog, African polyrhythm, The Declaration of Independence, tape collage, lullabies, nuclear holocaust, and so on. Even their previous material is not safe when opening apocalyptic lullaby “Sleep” is mutilated and resurrected as “Shrink Wrap” halfway through the album (a practice recreated on Amnesiac with “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” as the Frankenstein’s monster made from “True Love Waits.”)
It would take many times the space I’m allotted to attempt to describe the inventiveness and originality behind all of Deceit, so I’ll try my best to concentrate on one of the peak moments (and my personal favorite) “Makeshift Swahili.” This song comes after the middle section’s focus on pop (“S. P.Q. R.”) with rare glimpses of hope (“Cenotaph”), and considering everything opens with a lullaby that is reestablished on “Shrink Wrap” the whole first half of the album acts as a strange dream that is abruptly dissipated. That surreal imagery and lack of a logical structure creates a vivid dream; however when you come to “Radio Prague,” the sound collage intro to “Swahili,” the performance breaks into deadly serious reality.
The seamless transition occurs as a dreadful harbinger of a guitar riff builds to a heavy peak until the listener is pulled into the midst of the horror the album had been building towards. Accompanied by a jerky drum beat, Charles Hayward’s vocals sound like a rapid barking dog. They make Genesis P. Orridge, a major influence here, sound timid in comparison. In fact, they’re so raw that it can be easy to miss how clever this band was lyrically. “She says ‘you’re only as good/ as the words you understand’/ and you, you don’t understand a word,” yells Hayward before the devastating roar of “Tower of Babel/ Swahili/ it’s all Greek to me.” For an album that captures the anxiety of nuclear war this song focuses on why that anxiety is present. Lack of communication and misunderstanding of culture and language between countries is dangerous when mutual assured destruction is universally understood.
Powerlessness is one of the key themes of Deceit, and while other tracks evoke sadness, “Makeshift Swahili” is all rage. Hayward expresses such a fierce urge to connect throughout that makes the final screamed nonsense of “Rhubarb! Rhubarb! Rhubarb!” as pathetic as it is frightening. This Heat’s radiation-soaked masterpiece is devastating and “Makeshift Swahili” acts like the heart of the blast.